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Japan is suffering because of sin.  Now, I am not saying the people of the country brought this upon themselves.  I am speaking about a much bigger problem, a sin problem that crosses over every ocean, infiltrates deep into the heart of every country, and even reaches the ends of the galaxy.  The sin I am speaking of is a cosmic problem brought on by Adam and Eve, and experienced by the creation itself.  It was not just humans that fell that day in the garden, the whole creation was subjected to the curse of sin.    For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:19-22).  The creation did not asked to be cursed.  It was not the creation itself that rebelled, but man, the man whom God set over the creation as keeper and lord.  We most often think of the fall as having to do with the moral depravity of humanity, and that is right, because we are God’s chief creation.  But, the creation (i.e trees, oceans, stars, cats, gold-fish, sand)  was likewise affected profoundly by the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the garden.  The creation was punished because Adam, it’s caretaker was unfaithful to God.  The world is not as it was created.  The cosmos are a much different and more violent place than it was prior to sin entering the world through Adam.  This is why we have earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and every other form of natural disaster.  And, until Christ returns and the new Heaven and new Earth are created unfortunately, we can expect many more violent acts of nature.  Only God knows why Japan was struck with such as disaster.  Science tells us it was because of the earth plates shifting and moving.  I believe what science says to be true, but I also believe what the Bible says, and it speaks to acts like the tsunami as the result of sin.  Did Japan deserve this type of natural disaster?  No more or no less than America, Kenya, or Chile would.  We are all under the curse of sin.  All nations feel the effects of the fall, unfortunately some live on or near fault lines.  Same are prone to experience land slides, some tornadoes, some extreme drought, some hurricanes, some extreme cold.  The falls curse can be felt anywhere on the globe, there is no true paradise here on earth.  So, brother and sisters in Christ let us join with Christians around the globe in praying for Japan.  Let us pray that salvation would come to many, many of the over 128 million or more unreached Japanese.  That a great country humbled by a catastrophic event would come to know a savior who has conquered sin, and will one day return to conquer all things including tsunamis.  Let us pray for the Island country shaped like a dragon to know the one who has slain the ultimate dragon.  Japan, we love you and your people.  May these present sufferings be regarded as nothing compared to the eternal glory that is in Christ (Romans 8:18).  Do not lose hope, but place your hope in the one whom your hope is safe in…Christ Jesus.

Psalm 25:5

 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long.

A Taste of Heaven

 

                  

   Photo Courtesy: Laura Barnand

Yesterdayon the hallowed flats of what is the Georgia Institute of Technology inside the Bill Moore Tennis Center I witnessed/experienced a taste of what heaven must be like.  For 23 long years the University of Georgia men’s tennis team had not lost a match to the Men of Georgia Tech.  23 years is a long time to oppressed by any other…especialy if that other is them dawgs of Georgia.  This last moment of joy for the Yellow Jackets against the dawgs came in 1988, when current men’s and women’s coaches, Kenny Thorne and Brian Shelton were senior’s on the team.  I was 8 years of age then, just as a point of reference.  The match was a battle.  The dawgs struck first taking the doubles point (1-0 gawga).  In singles, The mighty men of the flats struck back beginning on court two with Juan Spear making light work of his dawg foe.  The dawgs countered with a win on court three against Tech’s #3 man Eliot Potvin.  Tech broke back, at #1 where Guillermo Gomez fought off a mistake ridden first set to find his groove and a straight set win.  The dawgs would not go away however, as they would take #4 singles from the Yellow Jackets andKevin King in three sets.  Georgia Tech would be dealt a big blow here, but it would be the last they would incur.  On court 5, Magin “the machine” Ortiga played like gravity.  He wore, and wore, and wore, his opponent down with ball after ball after ball.  Magin would seemingly not miss, and we defiantly would not lose.  Score…3-3!  Now to Dean O’ Brien.  A South African who transferred last year from Tennessee Tech to Georgia Tech.  Only this week did he replace a fellow teammate in the lineup.  Prior to the match, as the two players were standing, facing one another, they looked more the part of professional boxers than tennis players.  Each man in his corner bouncing, jumping, focused eye-ball to eye-ball.  This would foretell much of what was to transpire.  Deano (as he is most affectionately known) would drop a tough first set 6-4.  Both teams hopes of a victory hung in the balance of these two young man and the racquets they wielded.  Deano turned it up in the second set, taking it by the score of 6-3.  The deciding match was all nodded up.  Georgia and Georgia Tech would come down to one match and one final set.  The set was a battle at every level, both players competing, failing, rising up, making, missing, but competing for each point, and every single ball.  Deano would have his chances to break deep in the third, up 0-40, his opponent would hold strong.  Deano would battle back, down 4-5, serving, Deano, would save two match points from his opponent to win the game and tie things up at 5-5.  Perhaps the shot, or point of the match came on a match point during that 4-5 game.  Deano serving, misses his first, and then comes back with what looked like another first or close to it which surprised the heck of Georgia’s #6.  Deano, full of confidence and smelling blood, would break his opponent for the second straight time with relative ease.  Now, the match was clearly in his hands.  Serving to beat Georgia.  Serving for the win for his team.  Serving to become a forever Georgia Tech tennis legend.  Deano stayed relaxed, stayed focused, and stayed aggressive.  His opponent got tight, missed on two occasions, and then Deano was serving for it all.  23 years of frustration were about to come off the racquet of one Dean O” Brien.  Dean’s serve would be placed by his dawg opponent properly into the middle of the net…and alas the celebration had begun.  Players both current and former rushed the court.  Fans stood and cheered frantically for their beloved yellow jackets.  I watched all of Dean’s match up in the coach’s office with Head women’s coach Brian Shelton, and women’s assistant Allison Silverio.  The moment the match concluded, I high-fived and hugged coach Shelton and said I gotta get down there with those guys.  I hugged the guys.  I was in attendance their freshman year at Georgia when we were beaten so badly and quickly by the dawgs, Coach Thorne practiced the team on UGA’s courts for a few more hours.  That was now a distant memory, but a reminder about how far we had come.   I then went hugged men’s assistant Aljosa Piric.  Then, my last embrace was for the head man himself, Coach Kenny Thorne.  I don’t remember exactly what I said to him, I was just so happy for him.  And when I looked in his eyes and I surveyed his face, I saw 23 years of frustration gone.  I saw a man who was overjoyed, and loving every ounce of the moment.  I stepped back to gaze over the crown of several hundred.  The GT contingency were all on their feet cheering for their brave warriors.  It was a gesture of appreciation for the show these boys put on for all in attendance to see.  I stepped even a little further back and just enjoyed a panoramic view of the GT fans, coaches, and players.  No one was sad, no one was angry, no one was hurt.  Everyone wearing gold a white was euphoric with joy.  At that moment there were no burdens (like tests to take), no worries (like more tests to take), no troubles (you know tests and stuff), just jubilation.  I thought this must be what heaven is like.  No worries, no burdens, no suffering, no sadness, only joy and love all of the time without ceasing or end.  If that had occurred in heaven, the after party of the match would still be going strong.  But, as great as this was, it was only a sip, a taste of heaven.  If heaven is a constant and unlimited refill of the big gulp fountain drink at 7-11, this was just one sip from that cup of joy.  Oh what a sip it was though, one that will linger on the lips of the Tech players and fans for many days to come.  And if wins in tennis matches can bring us thus much joy, imagine how much more we will enjoy heaven and the very presence of Christ.  If heaven is better in every than what we experience on Saturday, then count me in as one who can’t wait to know joy like that, and peace like that, and freedom from burdens like that, and love that will cause us to sing and dance and smile forever.  Praise God there is a heaven…and we will love it there!

Revelation 21:3-5 (English Standard Version)

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Because We Want To!

I asked my daughter during Christmas if she wanted to go and see Santa Clause, to which she responded “no”.  I asked her why she did not want to go see him and she said, “because we don’t want to.”  I am still not sure who the “we” is she is referring too.  I have no reason to belive that at this point in her life she has a split personality like Gollum from Lord of The Rings. She does refer to my wedding ring as “The precious”…only time will tell.  That fact remains, she didn’t go see Santa Claus because she did not want to. Well, you and I are not so different.  We do what we do (whatever that is) because we either do or do not want to.  I am thinking of sin here particularly.  We sin because we want to.  No one forces our hand to sin.  No one makes us give in to temptation and commit acts of sin.  We sin because we want to.  I told some student athletes at GT FCA Bible study that I sinned because I like it.  Now, that was not say I sin recklessly, or cavalier, without any thought of God.  Rather, I was speaking to the fact that any sin is an act of the will that follows the greater desire of the heart.  We sin because its brings pleasure to us, or happiness, or satisfaction…If only for a moment.  And that is the one of the great troubles with sin, it does not last.  Sin’s pleasing effects are momentary and fleeting.  Like an addict, we need more and more to helps us reach our desired “high”.  And, like the ring in the Lord of The Rings, the thing we desire to possess ends up possessing us.  Growing up, I heard sin is wrong, sin is bad, don’t do it!  The problem was, no one ever presented me a better option.  Why would I want to cast down the idols in my life if they were so much fun, even if not ultimately satisfying?  We must present Christ as a superior joy and satisfaction to any sin.  If we don’t, we only teach basic morality and not Biblical Christianity.  The purpose of having a relationship with Christ is to enjoy Him and his fellowship more that nay thing else in our lives.  Who would be attracted to a faith where we just say do this and not that?  That is the type of faith I grew up with, and it was not very appealing by comparison.  We must continually point people beyond sin and to Christ.  Sin is not the end of all things, Christ is.  Christ is a better alternative to any sin we can think of or act upon.  Ultimately, we will sin because we want to, or we will enjoy Christ if we want to…the choice is ours.  In the end one way or another Christ will prove superior to all other affections.               

Joshua 24:14-15

14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

First Things First…

Leading off, I am sorry for the lack of posts recently.  January is my blogging sabbatical typically.  But, I’m back now and hopefully with some new inspiration from above.  So, here we are already in the last few days of January 2011.  What if any resolutions did you make this year, and are you still keeping them?  Well, I didn’t make any resolutions. I did not set any goals for the new year.  Instead, I decided I still needed focus on a few…first things.  I resolved that I would focus chiefly on two things; being more Christ, and better glorifying God.  I realize these two things sound so simple and elementary.  Well, I’ve been a Christian for going on 13 years now, and not only have I not mastered these two basic fundamentals, but I often stink at them.  Nothing could I do greater in my life than to be more like Christ.  Nothing would bring more glory to God in and through me than to be like Jesus.  Do I need to be a better husband, father, friend, employee, ect..?  Yes, but if I become more like Christ these secondary (by comparison) areas of my life will improve as I grow.  Do, I need to be more patient, loving, sympathetic, and less-judgmental?  Absolutely, but these are symptoms of my problem, I am not enough like Christ.  So, how can I best be more like Jesus?  Love and treasure God above all else, love others as myself, and share the gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Imagine if we all as Christians would actually work hardest at fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Comission…Our lives, our cultures, our world would likely look radically different.  We will never grow to wise, mature, or godly that we leave or graduate from the most important and fundamental components of our faith.  We all need to love God and others better, and make disciples for Christ.  We could spend our whole lives doing those things and we would never get bored and we would never feel like we wasted our lives.  Those things are first for a reason…they are to be chief, central, and practiced daily in our lives.  They are first for a reason, and for that reason we should make them first in our lives.

A Star Is Born

No one, no one is as famous as Jesus.  No other person ever born is as celebrated as Jesus from Nazareth (though many despise him as well).  No one ever said the things Jesus said, no one ever loved the way he loved, no one ever no one did the things he did.  No other person in the history of the world has ever compared to Jesus.  Kings are not born like Jesus, and no one has ever been given a star in the sky in their honor.  Stars, while eleventy billion miles from earth shine bright, but no star could compare with the light that is Christ.  He is the light of the world, the light that came into the darkness, and the light that has overcome that same darkness (John 1:1-14).  While every other star will burn out (including our own sun), his will shine eternally…”I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (Revelation 21:22-24).  So, today on December 25th 2010 we celebrate not a human star whose light will shine then fade, not a celestial star whose light will burn and then die out, but the greatest star of all, Jesus Christ whose light has come into the world and shines forever more.

Matthew 2:1-11

 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 

 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
   who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]

 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Planned to Perfection

 The birth of Christ was probably not what Joseph and Mary had envisioned, but it occurred just as God had planned.  In a manger (possibly with animals), while visiting another town, and with no other family around to help would hardly seem like the idyllic setting to give birth to God’s Son, but it would be perfect.  God rarely does things the way we think he should.  He does things then and now with so much more in mind that is still come.  The birth of Christ is a great example of his perfect planning.  It would have made sense to you and me that Jesus be born into royalty, with his birth surrounded by great nobility and fan-fare.  Perhaps a parade would follow the day after his birth, and then a week-long festival to celebrate his coming.  The king would be treated like a king from day one.  The birth of Christ was nothing like that, in fact it was the opposite of everything I have just described.  Jesus was not born into nobility, but to a peasant girl and a carpenter.  He was not born in a palace, but in a place normally reserved for animals.  God did not reveal his birth to heads of state or other prominent officials, but to lowly shepherds, and three very wise star gazers.  The plan of Christ’s birth was perfect way for the king to enter the world.  This king would be like no other before, and none that will come will ever equal his value.  His birth was to represent everything his life and death would be about, service and humility.  He embodied Mark 10:45 every moment of his earthly life.  His birth would foreshadow the way he would live and the way he would die.  God had orchestrated the perfect birth for the perfect king.  Our plan for the king while likely including a grand entrance at birth, would have never involved his death.  We like Peter, would have sworn he would never taste death by way of suffering.  It is very likely our messiah would have lived a very comfortable, posh life far from eating with sinners and suffering.  Thank God he didn’t ask our opinion, only our trust in him and his plans.  He devised a plan that demonstrate his great love in the greatest way.  A king who would first be a servant.  A king not of noble birth, but born of a virgin.  A king who would suffer and die for the sins not of his own, but of those who loved.  God planned the perfect birth for his perfect son.  A birth that not tells us much of the kind of king he would be.  The greatest king, born in the most unlikely manner.  We would have never conceived it, God would have had it no other way.

Mark 10:45      

45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

A Gift for God?

It’s Christmas, we all love giving gifts to others.  God has given us his greatest gift with the birth of his son.  So, I wondered today could we give God a gift for Christmas, and if so then what?  Well, obviously nothing in a material sense would do.  After all, he owns it all (Psalm 24:1).  Plus I don’t think any of the mail services currently deliver to heaven.  But, there is one gift I believe he would adore and treasure for Christmas…You.  I believe the greatest thing we could ever give God is our very lives.  It’s not as though he is lacking in any way and needs us, but he does desire us.  The greatest gift we could offer to God is just our very best, ourselves.  We are the only thing God wants.  John Piper was once asked what God wants from us, to which he responded, “all of us all of the time.”  God wants our whole lives to be completely under his Lordship and authority.  In Christ, God can make much of our lives.  Don’t think of it as owing God something, our gift in no way compares with his.  Think of it as worship, offering God the one thing that would be most pleasing to him.  You can’t offer on behalf of anyone else, you can only give what is yours.  And compared to what God gave us, our gift is not all that big.  But, it is the one thing he wants, that is guaranteed to please him, and you will end up being blessed beyond measure for giving it to him.  Thank you God for your son.  Here is my life it’s not much, but it’s the best I can give.  May my life be an offering of worship unto you.        

Romans 12:1

  1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.